How to Discover Your Ideal Work Style


Everyone works a little differently. 

Your approach to a task, project, or problem stems from how you naturally work. 

Yet if you try to adopt a work style that doesn’t align with your inherent approach to your to-do list, you might find it tricky to focus and stay productive. So what do you do?

You build a healthy routine that revolves around your personal work style. 

Your work style is how you bring your unique insights and understandings to the table. The better you understand how you work, the more effectively you can approach your to-do list. In this article, we’re zooming in on different types of work styles and tips for how you can find yours.

What is a work style?

A work style is how an individual’s skills, preferences, and personality impact how they approach and complete work. 

Basically, it’s what you enjoy working on, how you collaborate with team members, when you naturally work, and what you’re good at all rolled up into one approach to getting things done. 

In identifying your work style, you’re learning how to lean on your strengths and naming your weaknesses. Something as simple as scheduling your day around when you’re the most productive could work wonders for helping you be more productive. Learning about your work style may welcome some of the following benefits: 

  • A greater understanding of your strengths and weaknesses
  • Boosted productivity
  • More efficient collaboration on projects 
  • Ability to build a routine that works for you 

As you keep reading to learn more about your work styles, here’s something to remember:

Once you have your work style dialed in, avoid relying on it too heavily. In doing so, you risk boxing yourself into a specific way of working that can hinder judgment, reduce flexibility, and instill limiting beliefs. 

Instead, knowing your work style should help you capitalize on your strengths and find gaps in your skillset where you may want to dedicate time to improving. 

6 main work styles

As you read through the work styles below, keep your work preferences in mind. We’ll dig further into steps to discover your work style later so pay attention to which descriptions resonate most with you. 

If you haven’t taken a personality test or work style assessment before, it might be helpful to get those results. Different personality types cater to certain types of work styles—you might be surprised to find an overlap between the two.

Remember, one work style isn’t better or more effective than another. Each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. 

1. Cooperative

If you’re a cooperative worker, you thrive in collaborative environments. You love verbal brainstorming sessions and problem-solving by bouncing ideas off other people. You might find yourself doing your best work in conjunction with others. 

The downside to being a strong collaborative worker is that working alone can sometimes be challenging. You may struggle to focus or develop fresh ideas when brainstorming alone. Focusing on your work might be more difficult when doing so independently. 

In short, you likely have amazing interpersonal skills and do well when working with others. Yet, when it comes time to work in solitude, you may face some challenges. 

Likely strengths: Collaborative, communicative, friendly 

Potential weaknesses: Independent work

2. Independent

An independent worker loves heads-down and focused work time. They’re learners, performing well when granted space and time to turn all their attention to their tasks. Usually, these workers can collaborate well with their colleagues but prefer time to process new ideas and brainstorm independently before bringing their ideas to the group. 

If you’re an independent worker, you probably function well with a routine and take logical, thoughtful approaches to problem-solving. Conversely, it might feel like a challenge to your detail-oriented and focused thinking to collaborate with others. Spitballing and off-the-cuff brainstorming may not come easily to you, resulting in a lack of sharing ideas and communicating.

Likely strengths: Thoughtful, detail-oriented, independent 

Potential weaknesses: Poor communication, collaborative environments

3. Supportive

Supportive workers focus on building relationships with those around them. They thrive in spaces where they act as team liaisons, understanding all sides of a problem and uncovering the middle ground. They’re in tune with the emotional experiences of their work environment—probably the first person to notice when you’re having a bad day. 

While those with supportive work styles are great at resolving an unspoken problem or helping to relieve tension, they may often struggle with confrontation. They usually want everyone they work with to be happy with their decisions, so they try to ensure everyone feels heard and valued. However, that also means that making hard and fast business decisions doesn’t come easily. 

Likely strengths: Resolving conflict, working with people, emotionally aware

Potential weaknesses: Confrontation, making hard choices

4. Idea-oriented

If you’re a big-picture thinker and working through large ideas excites you, you may be an idea-oriented worker. Workers who prefer this style are often the big-idea people. They step back to look at the broader picture, understanding an industry and where they fit in. They tend to think freely, allowing their creative queries to stray outside the box. 

Idea-oriented people are great at inspiring those around them; however, they might need help when they need to drill down into specifics. Organizing their big ideas into actionable plans likely doesn’t come naturally to them. 

Likely strengths: Creativity, new ideas, thinking outside the box

Potential weaknesses: Structuring a plan, project management

5. Detail-oriented

The opposite of idea-oriented workers are those who love focusing on details. They gravitate toward work that invites deep, detailed thinking. Strategic thinking comes naturally. If you have a detail-oriented work style, accuracy and reading the fine print are your areas of expertise—you have a highly logical work style.

While a detailed person might be the final stamp of approval before finalizing a document, they may find it challenging to think beyond the small details. Focusing on the details can prevent finalizing work because it always feels incomplete. This approach to work also increases your chances of burnout and fatigue due to how much mental energy you expend focusing on the fine details. 

Likely strengths: Catching errors others miss, strategic thinking, planning

Potential weaknesses: Looking at the big picture, perfectionism

6. Proximity

You can think of proximity work styles as sitting somewhere between independent and collaborative work. People who lean toward this work style tend to strike a balance between solo, focused work and collaborating with their colleagues. It might look like working through a task or problem independently before bringing the results back to the whole team for discussion. 

The proximity work style is the most flexible in most work environments. That said, not all workplaces invite this kind of balanced type of work, which can make landing in the ideal environment difficult for a proximity worker. 

Likely strengths: Flexibility, teamwork

Potential weaknesses: Difficulty finding an ideal work environment 

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4 tips to find your ideal work style

With familiarity with the six main work styles, let’s dive into the tips to help you find yours. Even if you already have a pretty good sense of your work style, it’s wise to brainstorm answers to these prompts. 

1. Identify your communication style

People often fall into one of four communication style categories. Each has its own characteristics that help define how a person listens, speaks, solves problems, and makes decisions. 

You might use more than one of these communication styles at any given moment. Once you have a handle on communication types, you might notice some parallels with the different work styles. For example, if you focus on building relationships with those around you and you’re emotionally aware of your coworkers, you might have a harmonizer communication style with a supportive or collaborative work style.

How you communicate and your preferred work style operate hand-in-hand. Here are the four main types of communication:

Director: Goal-oriented, decisive, direct

Expresser: Easily excited, people-oriented, thinks out loud

Thinker: Task-oriented, chooses words carefully, thoughtful

Harmonizer: Relationship-focused, avoids conflict, loyal

When determining your communication style, consider how you ask and respond to questions. How do you carry out conversations with colleagues, friends, and family? 

2. Consider what you enjoy working on

The work you enjoy doing most likely overlaps with your work style. Maybe the work is exciting, or tasks seem to come to you naturally. Which tasks do you complete with a sense of accomplishment?

For example, if you feel happy and encouraged by supporting your colleagues to problem solve and work through tough tasks, you might have a supportive or collaborative work style. If you feel most satisfied after a stretch of time where you can focus deeply and work through complex tasks, you might fall into the independent work style category. 

3. Pinpoint which tasks are easy and which are difficult

Your ideal work style encapsulates both the tasks you enjoy and the ones where you naturally have strengths. Take stock of which items on your to-do list that tend to be easier for you to complete. 

Now, take a look at the opposite end. Which tasks have a taller barrier to entry for you? Maybe these are the to-do items you’re more likely to procrastinate on or take longer to complete. Try paying attention to why you find these tasks more challenging than others. 

Identifying which tasks you find difficult and which you find easy is equally important. Together, this information will guide how you approach work. You can use the work you struggle with to help rule out work styles that don’t resonate with you. At the same time, by naming these challenges, you can find better ways to work through them.

4. Determine your conflict style

When faced with conflict, what’s your approach? How you handle challenging situations can help inform your work style. For example, if you avoid conflict at all costs, you might have a supportive work style. If you’re not bothered by conflict because you’re comfortable with having a different approach than the larger group, you might have an independent or idea-oriented work style. 

Your precise approach to conflict can vary depending on the situation and the people involved. It’s worth noting how you approach conflict at work and handle it with a loved one. What goes through your head when faced with conflict? Where do your instincts take you when trying to work through it? 

Sunsama: the tool to support every work style

Identifying your work style is key to capitalizing on your strengths and boosting productivity. When you have self-awareness of how you work best, you can build a routine that aligns with your work needs so you work as efficiently as possible. 

The next step is making your findings actionable by leaning on a tool like Sunsama.

Sunsama bolsters your personalized work style into a realistic daily schedule that ensures you get your work done effectively. Use the daily planning feature to schedule all your work while maintaining sustainable work practices. Drag and drop tasks from Sunsama into your calendar for easy timeboxing. 

Ready to give Sunsama a try? Sign up for a free trial to start experiencing the benefits of a sustainable and realistic schedule that honors your work style. 

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